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Pick 'n' mix undermines curriculum in Wales;Letter

Dr Nick Tate's thoughtful comments (TES, February 13) are to be welcomed. Raising standards of achievement in literacy and numeracy is a laudable aim, and a review of the curriculum in primary schools is to be welcomed.

However, to base the review on a devaluation of the foundation subjects means undermining sport, the arts and the humanities. This is misplaced and potentially highly damaging. The principle of a broad-and-balanced entitlement curriculum for all pupils is jettisoned. Indeed, the rationale of a "national curriculum" is destroyed.

The arts and humanities give the curriculum in Wales its distinctive Welsh dimension. Primary children deserve the rich and varied experiences which such areas provide.

There is a need for a review; but it should encompass the whole curriculum and should begin with a debate on what should constitute an essential curriculum for all pupils. As we enter a new millennium and stand on the threshold of the establishment of a Welsh Assembly, the suggestion that primary pupils in Wales may be allowed to opt out of an education which enables them to explore their past and come to an understanding of the rich tapestry of communities that forms Wales is pernicious.

All pupils in Wales have the right to be taught Welsh. To deny them such a right contradicts one of the specified aims of the curriculum in Wales. The notion that they do not investigate the environmental problems that face the world or that they do not study communities from other parts of the world is appallingly short-sighted. At the very time that we see a flowering of the arts in Wales, teachers are being asked to adopt a pick 'n' mix approach which seriously threatens these areas of experience.

The present review diverts attention away from the real reasons that teachers in Wales are under pressure - budget cuts, class sizes, shouldering the blame for the ills of society. If we are serious about raising standards of literacy and numeracy, it would be far more beneficial to look at teaching and learning strategies than to play around with the structure of the curriculum; if we are serious about prioritising education, the education system has to be properly funded and teachers need to be shown respect and given support.

TONI GRUFFYDD SCHIAVONE

Bryn Celyn, Pandy Tudur Abergele,Conwy

Editor: no decision has yet been taken to slim down the primary curriculum in Wales. The Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales has been asked for urgent advice on curriculum overload.

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